To assess the relationship of circulating fatty acids (FA) with risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and potential interactions with genetic risk.


A total of 95,854 participants with complete data on plasma FA from the UK Biobank were enrolled between 2006 and 2010 and were followed up to the end of 2020. Plasma concentrations of saturated fatty acids (SFA), monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) were analyzed by a high-throughput nuclear magnetic resonance–based biomarker profiling platform. The genetic risk scores (GRS) were calculated on the basis of 424 variants associated with T2D. Pathway-specific GRS were calculated based on robust clusters of T2D loci.


There were 3,052 instances of T2D documented after an average follow-up of 11.6 years. Plasma concentrations of SFA and MUFA were positively associated with T2D risk, while plasma PUFA were inversely associated. After adjustment for major risk factors, hazard ratios (95% CI) of T2D for 1-SD increment were 1.03 (1.02–1.04) for SFA, 1.03 (1.02–1.05) for MUFA, 0.62 (0.56–0.68) for PUFA, 0.67 (0.61–0.73) for n-6 PUFA, 0.90 (0.85–0.95) for n-3 PUFA, and 1.01 (0.98–1.04) for n-6–to–n-3 ratio. Plasma MUFA had significant interactions with the overall GRS and GRS for proinsulin and liver/lipid clusters on T2D risk. The protective associations of n-3 PUFA with T2D risk were weaker among individuals with higher obesity GRS (P interaction = 0.040) and liver/lipid GRS (P interaction = 0.012). Additionally, increased plasma n-3 PUFA concentration was associated with more reductions in T2D risk among participants carrying more docosapentaenoic acid–associated alleles (P interaction = 0.007).


Plasma concentrations of SFA and MUFA were associated with a higher T2D risk, whereas plasma PUFA and n-6 and n-3 PUFA were related to a lower risk. Circulating MUFA and n-3 PUFA had significant interactions with genetic predisposition to T2D and FA-associated variants.

This article contains supplementary material online at https://doi.org/10.2337/figshare.17430542.

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